As excessive heat warnings and advisories are in place in 28 states, extending from California into numerous southwestern states and up into New England, dangerous temperatures are expected to persist all week. According to the National Weather Service, up to 100 million people, or roughly one-third of the population, are anticipated to be in regions with dangerously high temperatures and humidity.
Additionally, Europe is experiencing extremely high temperatures. Tuesday, July 19, when the weather service reported a provisional reading of 104.5 degrees, the UK broke its record for the highest temperature ever recorded, according to the Met Office, the country’s main meteorological service.
According to USA Today, the extreme heat is also to blame for the “melting” of airport runways in Britain, which momentarily diverted aircraft.
According to a report by ABC News, the sweltering temperatures further south have stoked huge flames in Portugal, Spain, and areas of southern France and contributed to more than 1,000 deaths from heat-related causes.
Temperatures above average could persist until August.
A recent climate trend report from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration predicts that above-normal temperatures will likely persist through September for the majority of the United States. The National Weather Service temperature outlook shows that most states will continue to experience above-normal temperatures throughout July and into August.
Heat advisories are issued depending on the projected heat index and how well-prepared a community is for the high temperatures (central Florida is more acclimated to extreme heat than Alaska). According to the National Weather Service, the heat index represents how hot it feels to a human body when relative humidity and air temperature are taken into account. When the heat index is predicted to be at least 105 degrees for more than three hours each day for two straight days, or when the heat index is higher than 115 degrees for any length of time, an excessive heat warning is issued.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, heat exposure not only results in 700 deaths annually in the United States (CDC).
It’s crucial to comprehend what happens to your body as the temperature rises and how to prevent a heat-related sickness as dangerous conditions spread across the country.
There is evidence to suggest that hot days may also have a harmful impact on our mental health.
According to a study that examined visits to New York emergency departments in October 2021, warmer days were linked to a higher incidence of drug usage, mood and anxiety problems, schizophrenia, and dementia-related emergency room visits.
What Happens to Our Bodies in Extremely Hot Temperatures
The capacity to tolerate cold outweighs the body’s capacity to adapt to heat, according to David Berkoff, MD, an orthopedics professor and an associate professor of emergency medicine at UNC Health in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. “Our body regulates temperatures both hot and cold centrally,” he adds.
The most dangerous heat-related disorders are heatstroke and heat exhaustion. Heat exhaustion symptoms include cramping in the muscles, weariness, headache, nausea or vomiting, and dizziness or fainting. According to Dr. Berkoff, “with heat exhaustion, our bodies start to lag and lose the capacity to maintain a safe core temperature.” A person suffering from heat exhaustion frequently exhibits cool, wet skin, a quick, weak pulse, and shallow, rapid breathing.
Heat exhaustion can develop into heatstroke, a dangerous, perhaps fatal condition, if it is not treated. Among the symptoms are the following:
- A temperature of more than 103 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Dry, heated, and irritated skin (no sweating)
- a swift, powerful pulse
- severe headache
Who Is Most Prone to Disease from Extreme Heat?
According to the National Weather Service, some groups are more susceptible to heat-related sickness and death, even though high temperatures can be terrible for everyone:
Infants and young children are less competent than adults to adjust to heat.
This is especially true for those who already have health issues. The National Institute on Aging reports that drugs including diuretics, sedatives, tranquilizers, beta-blockers, and high blood pressure medications can make it more difficult for the body to cool itself, regardless of whether the patient has heart, lung, or kidney illness. Seniors who have limited mobility or live at home are also more at risk.
People with mental illness or chronic medical disorders These people are more likely than healthy people to experience a significant health issue during a heat wave. A higher risk is also linked to being underweight or having a lot of excess body weight.
Pregnant women Extreme heat events have been linked to congenital cataracts as well as poor birth outcomes like low birth weight, premature birth, and infant mortality.
Watch out for any signs of heat illness in newborns and young children. Ask those who are able to respond if they are getting enough water, if they have access to air conditioning, and if they need assistance staying cool, advises the CDC.
Tips for Staying Healthy During a Heat Wave
The CDC advises staying as much as you can indoors, in an air-conditioned environment. When the temperature soars into the high 90s or more, an electric fan may offer some temporary comfort, but they cannot stop health-related ailments.
- Don’t wait until you’re thirsty to drink, and drink more water than you usually do.
- Use the buddy system — check on neighbors, friends, and family members, especially those who are more vulnerable to heat-related illnesses.
- Limit outdoor activity, especially in the middle of the day.
- Pace yourself, and if you feel any signs of heat exhaustion, hydrate right away and find an air-conditioned spot to rest.
- Wear loose, lightweight, and light-colored clothing.
- Never leave pets or children in cars.